Joey Cheek — William Joseph Cheek was born on June 22, 1979, in Greensboro, North Carolina. He is an American speed skater and former inline speed skater. He specializes in the short and middle distances.
Cheek’s breakthrough was in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, where he won the bronze medal in the 1,000 meters and just missed the podium in the 1,500 meters by 0.08 seconds.
In 2003 he won a bronze medal at the World Single Distance Championships in Berlin in the 1,000- and 1,500-meter events. Both distances at that tournament were won by Dutch speed skater Erben Wennemars. In 2005, Cheek made the podium for the first time in the World Sprint Championships, again behind Wennemars.
On January 22, 2006, in Heerenveen, Cheek became world sprint champion. On aggregate he beat Dmitry Dorofeyev of Russia and Jan Bos of the Netherlands.
At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Cheek won the men’s 500-meter event in dominating style, recording a two-run total time of 1:09.76. That time was 0.65 seconds faster than runner-up Dorofeyev, and Cheek was the only competitor to break the 35-second mark in the competition, doing so in both of his runs (34.82 and 34.94). Cheek’s time in the first 500-meter race is an unofficial world record for the fastest 500 meters ever at an ice rink at sea level. He went on to win silver in the 1,000-meter race, finishing just behind teammate Shani Davis.
He was elected by his teammates to carry the US flag into the closing ceremonies. Near the end of NBC’s coverage of the event, commentator Bob Costas noted that Cheek’s application to Harvard University had not been accepted and lobbied the Dean of Admissions to reconsider the decision. Cheek is now a junior at Princeton University.
Cheek planned to attend the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in support of athletes on Team Darfur. His visa was revoked by the Chinese embassy hours before he intended to leave for China.
Cheek picked up speed skating after meeting and watching neighborhood friend Bryan Anderson skate around the neighborhood training for Nationals. After years of skating with Bryan, his brother, and other Piedmont skaters he switched to ice speed skating.
Cheek attended James B. Dudley High School in Greensboro, North Carolina, and is currently attending Princeton University as a member of the class of 2011, where he studies economics and the Chinese language.
On Tuesday, August 12, 2008, Cheek appeared on the Colbert Report and discussed Sino-Sudanese relations.
Cheek is the co-founder and president of Team Darfur, an international coalition of athletes committed to raising awareness about and bringing an end to the crisis in Darfur, Sudan.
At a press conference after the Olympic 500-meter race, Cheek said that he decided to donate his USOC gold medal bonus ($25,000) to Right to Play, an athlete-driven international humanitarian organization formed by former Olympic champion Johann Olav Koss of Norway. Cheek challenged others to make similar pledges to the organization. He subsequently donated his prize money from the 1,000-meter race ($15,000) to the same organization.
Since his donation others have joined in and over $390,000 has been contributed to this cause.